“Psychologists are realizing the importance of having children understand their emotions at a young age. They realize we shouldn’t be teaching about academic subjects, we should be teaching them about their inner lives, because you cannot separate the two”

Eileen Johnson

Meeting Eileen at The Little Missionary School

Greeted by Eileen at the door, I felt welcomed as soon as I entered The Little Missionary School. We sat on the floor in a large, open room and watched students perform “This Little Light of Mine.” Some students played Ukulele, some sat, some stood. Students were free to be themselves and sway to the music. At The Little Mish School, children are made to feel safe in expressing a full range of feelings from loneliness to anger, and each emotion is greeted with acceptance.

Suddenly, one boy in the front row stood up and covered his ears. My gut reaction was to tell the child to sit down. As a teacher who “gets things done”, I have been trained and pressured to ignore feelings and shut-down emotions when they are distracting to the group. This “teacher-impulse” comes from a place of stress. Teachers feel pressured to keep everyone “on-track” at every moment. This “method” is controlling, unrealistic, and incredibly unsustainable.
Things work differently at The Little Missionary school. Instead, the child was greeted with the open-arms of a teacher. For Eileen, this is a “teaching moment”, not a time to shame a child for feeling any sort of way. This situation may prompt a class discussion on empathy. When children realize where their feelings come from, they better understand how to regulate their mental state. If we continue to tell students to bury their feelings, they will never learn how to self-regulate. When students talk about their feelings directly, difficult situations no longer feel like a big deal. They’re just something to think about and deal with in a mature manner.

“You’re fine, deal with it”

After reading Eileen’s book, Emotional Education I realized this: We’ve been raised in a world of “you’re fine, deal with it.” We learn to suppress our emotions from a young age and sweep feelings under the rug. These feelings pop-up later in life and cause problems in our relationships and our lives. Because of our habitual dismissal of feelings, many adults continue to struggle with self-regulation. Sadly, we encourage students to do the same. We are afraid to listen to the raw emotions of children. As adults, we see weakness in showing emotion and want to protect our children from difficult feelings. We’re also afraid to hear things like “you’re mean” and “I hate you”. We tell children to suppress these emotions and words instead of having real conversations about why they said it, where it’s coming from and how to better express real feelings.

Eileen has developed the A.R.T. method of emotional education. This method helps teachers and students process emotions!

  • ACCEPT – adults accept the child’s feelings, and their own responses
  • REFLECT – adults reflect feelings rather than trying to ‘fix’ them
  • TEACH – adults teach skills for managing and communicating feelings


We talked about :

  • therapy for teachers and parents
  • class size
  • school shootings
  • teacher burn-out
  • how to encourage creative thinking.


Check out Eileen’s books about Emotional Education:

  1. The Children’s Bill of Emotional Rights by Eileen Johnson
  2. Emotional Education by Eileen Johnson
  3. 10 Steps to an Emotionally Healthy Child by Eileen Johnson

Emotional Education with Eileen Johnson

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